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Loyle Carner – “Not Waving, But Drowning” Album Review

3.5/5 Not exactly drowning.. more comfortably floating

The South London born Ben Coyle-Larner offers an intimate and emotional 2nd album, “Not Waving, But Drowning”. With Helps from the likes of Sampha, Jorja Smith, Ottolenghi and Tom Misch. the Album comes across more studio polished but is fueled by Carner’s lyricism and personal relationships (also fueled by his love of food and famous chefs). Moving away from more current Hip-Hop and Rap themes you feel as if you are invited round for tea with his Mum which is quite refreshing. Despite this, this latest album compromises the gritty energy that defined his debut album “Yesterdays Gone” and traded it for velvety soft vocals and sun-drenched instrumentals.

Album opener “Dear Jean” Sets the tone for the album. Loyle recites the letter He wrote for his mum which is about moving out to live his girl-friend over a gentle 16 bar loop. 

“Angel” featuring friend Tom Misch demonstrates how the pair fit into each other’s musical environments so easily, however it feels like some of the potency of past collaborations was missing. For example “damselfly” From the debut album, personifies the feeling of summer with laid back guitar melodies. The latest collaboration lacks variation and you get the point after about half the song. 

On the other hand, tracks such as “Desoleil (Brilliant Corners)” featuring Sampha show Loyle’s exploration with sound and we begin to start hearing a new side of how the future albums could sound. With a more ‘modern’ approach to rapping over lucid piano chords supplied by the wonderfu Sampha, the track feels as if Carner’s sound is maturing from the boom bap style beats to something new.

Closing the album is “Dear Ben” which is a letter written to Ben Coyle-Larner from his mother Jean about his decision to move out, as well as his life and relationships. It’s clear to see exactly where Bens lyricism comes from. Jean Speaks eloquently over the same piano melody as her son but accompanied by a solitary trumpet which cuts through the mix. This is about the time that the goose-bumps start. The track seems like a nod towards “Sun of Jean ft Mum and Dad” where Loyle’s mum also gave another powerful and tear-jerking poem. This is truly an amazing way to close an album and as for the snippet of recording where Loyle says, “wait till the world hears this.” We heard it and We fucking loved it. 

Finally, although this album sacrificed the undertones of aggression which I think helped Loyle carve his path in UK Hip-Hop and come across as if he has something to prove. It is from the point of a boy in love and a man who looks after and adores his family, therefore expecting distorted riffs and angry songs like “No CD” is silly. Loyle Instead offers us something charming and wholesome, yet explores the Mental health aspects of touring, money problems and broken friendships and a multitude of other problems the 24-year old may face. The album is an exploration of the thin line between happiness and fragility of life in a crazy world.

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